Therapy Watch: Wanted: Skilled Shrink

When competence really matters

By Avigail Gordon, published on July 1, 2010 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Blue ribbonWhen seeking treatment for depression, it may seem obvious to look for a competent therapist. But it may be more important for some depressed patients than for others.

A study indicates that higher therapist scores on the Cognitive Therapy Scale (which evaluates a clinician's ability to properly implement therapeutic techniques) predicted better outcomes for their patients. It was no great shock that practitioners who scored higher on the scale had clients whose depressive symptoms were less severe at the end of treatment, regardless of how severe those symptoms were to start with. More surprising, however, was the fact that these findings were amplified for patients with a few key factors.

Therapist competence was especially important for patients who had an earlier age of onset or a chronic form of depression, and for those with concurrent anxiety. Experts have traditionally viewed clients with both depression and a personality disorder as a group that particularly benefits from therapist competence. Not so, according to this research, which found competence no more important for participants with personality diagnoses than those with uncomplicated depression.

So while anyone looking for a therapist should look for a well-trained one, it seems that patients who are feeling sad and stressed may want to shop around a little longer.

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